BANGKOK — Local residents in four provinces staged protests on Tuesday over plans to designate facilities in their respective neighborhoods as coronavirus quarantines.
Protests were reported in Ayutthaya, Chonburi, Samut Sakhon, and Prachuap Khiri Khan today, after officials announced plans to quarantine Thai workers returning from South Korea in those provinces. Residents said they fear the health impact from the the undocumented workers, even though none has tested positive for the virus so far.
About 30 vendors gathered at a government office in Ang Sila district of Chonburi, where they said having a coronavirus quarantine facility there would affect the tourism and fishing industry.
“If the tourists know about it, they wouldn’t come here, and shops here wouldn’t be able to sell,” Niphada Sisorndee, one of the protesters, told reporters. “Business nowadays is already not doing well because of the economy. If they brought Little Ghosts to be held here, the vendors would [go out of business].”
Plans to quarantine Little Ghosts, an internet slang for Thai undocumented workers in Korea, in three other provinces were met with similar opposition. The government previously said up to 5,000 Thai workers had signed up for evacuation from the virus-hit South Korea.
In Prachuap Khiri Khan’s Sam Roi Yot district, residents held placards saying “Little Ghosts Not Welcomed” and shouted that they would not disperse until the local government called off its quarantine plan.
“We will not accept it, because it will affect our neighborhood,” Nuannid Homsanit said. “Restaurants and resorts will get so many cancellations.”
“I disagree with it because there will be so many consequences. This is a tourist area,” said another resident, Nussaree Kongtan.
An official later met with the protesters and informed them that the quarantine proposal was cancelled, prompting cheers from the residents, who then called off the rally.
A plan to quarantine the Little Ghosts at a monastery in Ayutthaya was also shelved following a protest there. “We are not being discriminatory or cruel. But at this time, we have to SAVE ourselves,” one signs read.
Meanwhile in Samut Sakhon province, governor Veerasak Vichitsaengsri urged local residents to understand the coronavirus better before making judgements about the situation. His plan to set up a quarantine center in the province was met with protests from some local residents.
“People who returned [from Korea] aren’t necessarily people who are infected with Covid19,” he said.
Veerasak said if there’s a need to quarantine Little Ghosts in the province, the Buddhist complex of Phutthamonthon will likely be chosen.
Several hundred Little Ghosts have returned to Thailand since last week, with many being sent to mandatory quarantines run by different agencies around the country. As many as 80 workers also escaped the quarantine, though officials said 12 of them have since been recaptured.